Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Worst Romeo

The worst Romeo ever to disgrace our boards was given by none other than me, moi-meme. It was to be seen, a bird of ill-omen, in Perth during the summer of 1939. I wore a reddish wig (I can't think why), a droopy mustache (a big mistake), and Larry Olivier's cast-offs from the Gielgud production of four years earlier. Pamela Stanley, who had recently made a success in the West End as Queen Victoria, played Juliet and brought to the part of sorts of pretty little Victorian manners; in fact everything except a German accent.

The first night was memorable. I lept the garden wall for the balcony scene---'He jests at scars that never felt a wound'---whereupon the wall fell flat. With professional sang-froid I ignored the whole thing and struck a romantic pose of extreme yearning.

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East and Juliet is the sun.

At which moment the balcony fell off, to reveal, gasping with astonishment, Miss Stanley in her nightie. Another foot forward and she would have tumbled to her eternal rest. The curtain was lowered. After ten minutes of hammering, we started again, to tumultuous applause. The audience was thoroughly enjoying the mishaps, as they always do, but they also wanted, I think, to show their admiration for Miss Stanley not succumbing to the vapours. A few nights later we got successfully as far as 'It is the East and Juliet is the sun' when---No, not so, there was no Juliet. Distant cries for help were heard; she was locked in the lavatory. The curtain was lowered once more while the stage carpenter was sent to release her. It should never have risen again but we persevered. On the last night my ginger mustache got stuck to the phial of poison and after much spluttering with Romeo's last line, "Thus with a kiss I die,' it managed to tansfer itself to Miss Stanley's lips. She was not amused.

---from A Postively Final Appearance by Alec Guiness.


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